Pilot Mark Shaible: God's My Wingman
By Kristi Watts
The 700 Club
Kristi Watts interviews Mark Shaible:
Mark Shaible is a fierce competitor. Whether it is running, biking or flying jets, Mark is determined to be the best.
Mark: Anything that I went after, I went after 100 percent. My first year in motorcross, I finished number one in the state of Kansas, and Texas. First triathlons I ran, I finished first.
And as a pilot in the United States Air Force, he’s also at the top of the list as one of the best test pilots in the country.
Mark: In my mind, it was absolutely nothing that I felt I couldn't do.
That is until April of 1999.
Mark: I went out and raced in a triathlon and got smoked by people that I normally would beat. And I also had a pain in my leg. So, one of the doctors said, “Hey, let's just go do an MRI of it and make sure there's nothing wrong there, and let's go do some blood-work.”
Mark thought he had merely pulled or torn something. But he was shocked when he heard the test results.
Mark: Went down to the oncologist, they took us in. The first thing he said was, “Hey, we think we see some cancer cells in your blood.” I don't know anything about cancer; that's horrifying, because if it's in your blood, that means it's everywhere.
Further tests proved that it was even worse.
Mark: When the bone marrow biopsy came back, it said over 90 percent of the cells in the sample were cancerous.
Mark was diagnosed with a rare and incurable orphan cancer called Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia. There are less than 3,000 known cases of this kind of cancer. Its victims are usually 60 years or older. Mark was only 34.
Mark: Being a pilot, I really have never been afraid.
That is until now. But even through his fear of facing this deadly disease, Mark approached his cancer like everything else in life – head on with a mission to beat it.
Mark: We’re like, OK great. Hey, it’s not going to kill me tomorrow. We’re going to beat this thing. My philosophy was “OK, what happens if we take all the chemotherapy at once?” Again, control freak. I did not want something in my body that I could not control. I did not want it to be a part of me. I wanted it out. I wanted it gone. I wanted back control of my life.
But ‘control’ was quickly slipping through his fingers. The cancer was aggressively taking over his body and all medical efforts proved futile.
Mark: Basically, my body had turned on itself and was destroying my central nervous system; and I was about 24 to 48 hours away from stopping breathing. I couldn't move anything. I was basically fully paralyzed, lost control of the left side of my face.
Once a man who prided himself on being invincible was now weak, fragile and staring his own mortality in the face.
Mark: With this autoimmune disorder, if we cannot stop this, it’s going to kill your red blood cells.
Kristi Watts: If it kills them, what happens?
Mark: Then your done for. That was the turning point, a big huge turning point for me because my son was 10-months-old. And unless we could stop it, I wouldn't live long enough to see him turn one.
During this time, a family member began sharing the love and healing power of Jesus Christ to Mark. And while he eventually gave his life over to the Lord, he couldn’t give up everything to Him.
Kristi: Was it difficult to trust him?
Mark: It was hard releasing it to God. You can trust God, but there’s a question of what you’re going to release to Him. “OK God, you can have this part, you can have my salvation, I can go to heaven. But all this other stuff I'll take care of.” I believed what the Bible said, but I wanted it now. So, I would go through chemotherapy and I’d start feeling better. Again, I wanted to prove it, so I’d go do triathlons and mountain bike races and run and bike and do all this kind of stuff. I had my spleen taken out and the week after I got out of the hospital, I think I biked 275 miles that week. So I was out biking like 50 miles with staples in. My doctor is like, “What are you doing? You could rip your stitches.”
Kristi: What were you trying to prove? Were you trying to prove something?
Mark: I wanted to prove that cancer was not a part of my life. I wanted to prove that I was still in control of my life; that cancer was not going to define me.”
But no matter how hard Mark tried to fight the disease on his own, his health continued to get worse.
Mark: I had a lot of issues: being partially (about four times) or totally paralyzed, brain surgery, lost my spleen, lost my gall bladder, kidney stones, shingles. I went through chemo about a dozen times. I had lung puncture biopsies, spinal taps.
Mark wanted his life to change. And he finally realized that he didn’t have the power to change it, but he knew who did.
Mark: At that point I was like, “OK, God, I give it totally up to you. It's all up to you. I give my life up to you. I know you're in control. And I know that whatever you do, it's going to be for your glory, not for mine.”
It was in that place of total submission that God became real to Mark. For the first time in his life, Mark felt peace and put his complete trust in God.
Mark: At that point, I knew that I knew in my heart that I was going to be cured.
Shortly thereafter Mark received a bone marrow transplant, and to everyone’s surprise Mark’s recovery was remarkable.
Mark: Eight days after transplant, I was out, working out at 24 hour fitness. It's been three and a half years disease free.
Today Mark has a completely different outlook on life. He gives God all the credit for restoring not only his body, but his family and his future. He’s back doing all of the things he loves. But most importantly, sharing the love and healing power of Jesus Christ.
Mark: In the military we have a thing called the wingman that flies beside you, that covers you. You may be the one that's in the spotlight, you're the shooter, but your wingman is always there to protect you. God is my wingman. He's there all the time running interferance for me; making sure that things always turn out right. Make God the focal point of your life. You can enter a relationship with Him and your life will be much more fruitful. You'll have peace that you will never have anywhere else if you make God your wingman and bring Him into your life.Can God change your life?
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